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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Molle Mystery Theater -- "The Ghost with the Gun" by Anthony Boucher

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Mollé Mystery Theater (1943-48) aired "The Ghost with the Gun" on October 26, 1945 as the 96th episode of its estimated 237, of which only 73 are known to be still in circulation. The show would exist under several name (and management) changes for another six years or so, and would switch from its original network, NBC, to CBS, and then ABC (the latter two network shows having little in common with NBC's popular format). Its glory years as a first class mystery show are acknowledged as those comprising its original incarnation at NBC (i.e. 1943-48).

"The Ghost in the Gun" was written by The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction co-founder Anthony Boucher (1911-1968, photo at right). It appeared as a short story in the June 1945 issue of The Master Detective (cover at left), and was reprinted in the excellent 1983 collection Exeunt Murderers: The Best Mystery Stories of Anthony Boucher (Southern Illinois University Press). Listing all of Boucher's accomplishments would be a daunting task. Suffice it to say that he was an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and for a number of years with co-writer Denis Green would script Sherlock Holmes episodes for radio, a number of which we have run here. An excellent mystery writer (whose real name, by the way, was William Anthony Parker White), Boucher also wrote under the pen name of H. H. Holmes, which was the pseudonym of an American serial killer of the late 19th-century. Such an accomplished mystery writer was Boucher, that his wikipedia page states that, "In a 1981 poll of 17 detective story writers and reviewers, his novel Nine Times Nine was voted as the ninth best locked room mystery of all time."

"The Ghost with the Gun" takes place on Halloween and therefore involves packs of small children dressed in sundry and assorted costumes knocking on neighborhood doors. At one such stop during their never-ending pillaging rampage, a shot rings out from one of the little people wearing a sheet and covering his face with a mask and the adult at the door drops dead. The cops don't have much to go on, except for the fact that they are looking for someone under 5 feet tall. Diligent detective work soon offers several clues, none of which I plan on tossing out here, thank you very much. Do your own detective work and see if you can follow the clues Boucher lays out in "The Ghost with the Gun." I do offer an apology for a couple of minutes of scratchiness about halfway through, as the needle from the tanscription disc seems to have hit a rough spot for awhile.

Actually, we are fortunate to have this (and other) episodes of this show and many others at all, as it comes from the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS), where many "lost" shows have been rescued. This one falls under the umbrella of the Creeps by Night show, which would appropriate other shows' episodes as it saw fit for its audience. While having the AFRS as savior of these shows, the downside is that they would strip out all of the original advertising so as not to play favorites with the original ads that had been inserted from various radio stations and their markets around the country. Thus the shortened 25-minute run time for this episode.

Play Time: 25:32

     {October of 1945 was a time of relief and happiness for the American people. Germany had surrendered in May and Japan in August of 1945 bringing World War II to an end. Thus, after listening to this episode of Molle Mystery Theater on Friday, October 26th, 1945, it was with light hearts that the neghborhood gang met on the corner the next morning and headed for the nearby newsstand for some mystery and detective magazines, Halloween a few days away on that coming Wednesday. Dime Detective (1931-53) was a sure pick when they were in the mood. It was a monthly in 1945. Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine (1915-53) was one of the longest running and well established detective magazines ever to come down the pike, guaranteeing top quality material. It too was a monthly in 1945. Thrilling Detective (1931-53) was another long-running staple of the detective/mystery magazine genre, being a monthly from its first issue in 1931 through its September 1945 issue. It would skip the October issue, and with this November issue would become a bi-monthly through mid-1952, when it published only a single issue the remainder of the year. Like the other two magazines showcased below, it would fold in 1953, a bad year indeed for many pulp magazines, regardless of genre.]

[Left: Dime Detective, Oct. 1945 - Center: S&S Detective Story, Oct. 1945 - Right: Thrilling Detective, Nov. 1945]

     

To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.